How Has Lance Lynn Been Successful Since Returning from TJ Surgery?

St. Louis Cardinals’ starter Lance Lynn reached the major leagues in 2011 at the age of 24, and has generally been a good to very good pitcher since then. His 2014 and 2015 seasons (ERA+ of 133 and 129, respectively) suggested that he was settling in to the “consistently good” category, until Tommy John surgery after the 2015 season kept him off the mound in 2016. In 2017, however, he has picked up where he left off, putting up a 2.75 ERA (151 ERA+) and 1.195 WHIP en route to a 4-1 record after seven starts. Although his FIP (4.68) and BABIP (.245) suggest that he has been somewhat lucky so far, the numbers are not far out of line with his recent years.

In 2015, Lynn showed a fairly marked platoon split, with right-handed batters putting up a .623 OPS against him while lefties OPSed .809. That has been even more marked so far in 2017, with righties OPSing just .421 while left-handed batters have put up a .979 OPS.

What he throws. Lynn mainly throws fastballs, both four-seam (“FF”) and two-seam (“FT”) versions. The two fastball types were well separated in 2015, with distinctly different velocities and vertical movement. So far in 2017, the two pitches have blended into each other a little more than in 2015, especially with respect to the vertical movement. (However, some of this may be because of the different system for measuring pitch parameters that was introduced this season.) His velocity is good but not exceptional; in 2015, his four-seam fastball averaged 92.7 mph and his two-seam averaged 91.5, while in 2017 they have averaged 92.1 and 91.3 mph respectively.

As well as fastballs, Lynn also throws a slider (“SL”), changeup (“CH”), and curve (“CU”). The chart below shows his pitches from 2015, but their characteristics so far in 2017 have been very similar, aside from the separation between two- and four-seam fastballs:

Lance LynnPitch usage and trends. Lynn is a very fastball-heavy pitcher, with 84.7% of his pitches in 2015 being either four-seam (58.3%) or two-seam (26.4%) fastballs. He has cut back slightly in 2017, with 78.6% of his pitches being fastballs (46.4% four-seamers, 32.2% two-seam, although the pitches this season have been harder to distinguish clearly). In 2015, Lynn’s other pitches (slider, curve, and changeup) were afterthoughts, at just 7.8%, 4.8%, and 2.8% of his pitches respectively. In 2017, Lynn has increased his slider usage (14.0%), but still only occasionally uses his curve and changeup.

In both years, he strictly used his changeup against left-handed batters, and is much more likely to use his slider when ahead in the count:

Lance LynnOver the course of the 2015 season, Lynn’s fastball velocities increased significantly. Over his first few games of 2017, his velocity looks like the early part of 2015, so it’s possible that his velocity will increase over the course of this season as well:

Lance LynnPitch value. In 2015, Lynn’s fastballs were both somewhat above average in terms of total bases yielded per 100 pitches, while his slider was about average to right-handed batters but much worse to left-handed batters. His changeup and curve were used so rarely that they didn’t contribute much to his overall results:

Lance Lynn  So far in 2017, Lynn’s fastballs have been been good to very good against right-handed batters but average or worse against lefties. His slider has been excellent; of the 96 sliders he has thrown so far, he has only yielded two singles (one each to a right- and left-handed batter). The results on his changeup (which he only throws to left-handed batters) look awful, but may reflect some bad luck — two of the three hits against his changeup have been home runs:

Lance LynnPitch location. For the most part, Lynn’s pitches in 2017 are targeting about the same area as they did in 2015. His four-seam fastballs typically are at the top of the strike zone, while his two-seamers are at the bottom of the zone and inside to right-handed batters, outside to lefties. In 2017, his slider is more likely to be inside the strike zone than it was in 2015, when the pitch typically ended up well outside the zone to right-handed batters and, to a lesser extent, to lefties as well:

Lance Lynn

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Featured image courtesy of Bill Greenblatt.

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Ian is an immunologist and virologist who lives in Atlanta with his wife and two sons. Most of his time is spent driving his kids to baseball and soccer games, during which he indoctrinates his children on the glories of Pedro Martinez, the many virtues of the Montreal Expos, and other important information.